Published: 06:00, 07 June 2021
A vision to build up to 17,000 new homes to fund a £100 million bypass has sparked fears sleepy villages could mutate into city suburbs.
The government has ordered Canterbury City Council to add at least 9,000 properties to the district in its new Local Plan, which will act as the authority’s housing blueprint until 2040.
Despite this, bosses have revealed they want to build between 14,000 and 17,000 homes, dwarfing Downing Street’s minimum requirement.
They say the target – which is on top of the 16,000 already earmarked in the authority’s original Local Plan – would generate the funds needed to lay a congestion-busting eastern bypass, stretching from Sturry to Bridge.
But at a meeting of council’s policy committee towards the end of last month, Labour leader Cllr Dave Wilson warned such a rash of house-building could scar areas like Sturry and Bridge.
“The sprawl from building 17,000 houses is going to be significant,” the Barton councillor explained.
“For those residents on the fringes of the city, in places like Bridge, Sturry and Harbledown, we run the risk of them not being villages anymore, but being quaint suburbs of the city.
“It’s a drastic, unnecessary and risky way forward.”
The proposed route would stretch from the A28 at Sturry, across to the A257 and then on to a new junction at the A2 at Bridge.
Supporters of the scheme insist it will allow vehicles to be removed from Canterbury’s inner ring-road and replaced with dedicated cycle lanes and public transport links.
However, Cllr Wilson questioned the council’s valuation of the bypass project, noting that the bill for the “much shorter” Sturry relief road currently stands at about £30 million.
Stating that the costs “are well beyond the £100 million suggested”, he cautioned that the council “runs the risks of building the houses, but not raising adequate revenues”.
Fellow Labour member Cllr Pat Edwards added: “People are concerned about the fact that this volume of building and consequent extra traffic will swamp any efforts to alter traffic flows and changes of behaviour. That volume around a small city will generate more movement that we won’t be able to cope with, despite the proposals.”
Council papers show it expects to focus most of the work around Canterbury “as the economic hub of the district, through the expansion of the city and new or satellite settlement(s)”.
The authority has identified five other growth options for the new Local Plan.
These include sticking to the government’s minimum requirement of 9,000 new homes – predominantly located around Canterbury – and focusing developments on the coast or in the rural parts of the district.
The authority has also identified building a “new freestanding settlement” while limiting growth in Canterbury as a possibility.
Council leader Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding (Con) told the meeting: “The preferred option reflects many of the priorities, thoughts and ideas that councillors and stakeholders have contributed to this point.
“That figure may change as we go forward, but we have to gauge from our residents their thoughts, particularly when it’s an option that will deliver a significant intervention in Canterbury.”
Councillors voted in favour of launching a consultation into the options for the Local Plan.